19A modifications to avoid referendum
April 10, 2015 08:39 am
Following the Sri Lankan Supreme Court’s ruling on the 19th Constitutional Amendment (19A) on Thursday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that appropriate changes will be made in the draft to avoid going for a referendum.
The apex court, in its “determination” on the constitutionality of the draft 19A, had said that while it was largely consistent with the existing constitution, certain clauses which diluted the powers of the Executive President and enhanced the powers of the Prime Minister, violated some of the basic features of the constitution, and should therefore be subjected to a referendum.
Faced with this, Wickremesinghe said that the draft would be suitably amended to avoid a referendum. Meanwhile, speaking in Polannaruwa, President Maithripala Sirsene declared that the final draft of the 19A would be presented to parliament on April 20, and immediately after it is passed, parliament will be dissolved and fresh elections will be called for.
Clauses to Go
Given the objections of the Supreme Court, Executive power will continue to rest with the directly elected President. The President and not the PM, will be the head of the cabinet. The PM will not be determining the composition of the Cabinet and the Council of Ministers or the distribution of portfolios among the ministers. That will be done by the President. Supporters of the PM say that the President will go by the advice of the PM on these matters and therefore the changes are acceptable.
The apex court also said that the Election Commission’s power to take over the management of recalcitrant media houses, needs a referendum.
Clauses to Remain
The rest of the 19A will remain. There will be a Constitutional Council which, in turn, will appoint 11 Independent Commissions to oversee the functioning of key areas of governance to prevent politicization. There will be a Right to Information Act; The Presidential term will be reduced from six to five years; and a two-term cap will be put on the Presidency.
The hitch could now come from the opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the support of which is necessary to get 19A passed. The SLFP has said that it will not support 19A unless electoral reforms are also carried out simultaneously, New Indian Express reports.